I am a historian of science and technology and an assistant professor in the Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University. My work focuses on the study and control of the human body, and I am currently completing a book manuscript titled Measured Movements, which explores how and why human movement became a central object of scientific, political, and popular concern over the course of the twentieth century. I've been honored to receive fellowships and awards from the SSRC, the ACLS/Mellon Foundation, the History of Science Society's Forum for the History of the Human Sciences, and the Society for the History of Technology. Prior to arriving at CMU, I received my PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and spent 2016-2019 as a member of Columbia University’s Society of Fellows. I am spending the 2021-2022 academic year as a Member at the Institute for Advanced Study.
Special areas of ongoing research interest include the history of information and data; art, science, and technology; the human and social sciences; and religion and technology.
A description of my current book project, Measured Movements, can be found below. Other publications and projects have investigated the material history of the ballet pointe shoe, the sexual rehabilitation of paraplegic WWII veterans, and the relationship between modern technology and religion.
Measured Movements: The Human Body and the Choreography of Modern Life
My current book manuscript, Measured Movements, illuminates how a technology designed to record movement became a tool for managing social, cultural, and political life in the United States and United Kingdom after World War II. Developed by the German choreographer (and future Nazi Minister of Dance) Rudolf Laban in the 1920s, “Labanotation” employed a complicated “scientific” symbology to capture bodily movement on paper. Each chapter of the book explores a new episode in Labanotation’s movement from Nazi Germany to the factories, hospitals, and corporate boardrooms of Britain and the United States. There, it was used to provide spiritual salve for exhausted assembly line workers, to identify and treat war veterans and Holocaust survivors, to screen white-collar job applicants, and by folklorist Alan Lomax to assuage Americans’ unease about a multicultural world. Labanotation’s surprising appeal, I argue, derived from the twin promises it made to its users. First, that movement could provide individuals with a source of emotional solace, personal expression, and spiritual redemption. And, second, that this expressive potential would never go too far: movement would be continually monitored, broken down into its constituent parts, and put in the service of modern states, institutions, and bureaucracies. In creating a notation system ostensibly capable of turning any movement into easily analyzable data, Laban’s work not only served to preserve a fading past, but seemed to open up new possibilities for the literal choreographing of modern life.
Upcoming and Recent Events
New York Academy of Sciences, Lyceum Society
June 3, 2019
Princeton University, History of Science Colloquium
September 18, 2019
University of Pennsylvania, Collaborative Pedagogies in the Global History of Science
October 11-12, 2019
Society for the History of Technology
October 24-27, 2019
Johns Hopkins University, Colloquium in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology
November 7, 2019
Purdue University, Science and Technology in the Long 20th Century